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Author Archives: Mark Mitchell

Crafting the Score.

CKCB Group Shot 2018 wUKFBQ

The Central Kentucky Concert Band with the UK Faculty Brass Quintet  performing Bernstein in 2018 at the Lexington Opera House

In December, among other selections, we featured Shostakovich’s  Finale to his Symphony No. 5, and Goedicke’s Concert Etude featuring the band’s very own principal trumpet player T.J. Thomas as soloist. In March, we marched with Trauermusik by Wagner,  March to the Scaffold by Berlioz, The March from “1941” by John Williams, and the finale to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. May came, and with that, the band paid tribute to one of the greatest American composers to date: Leonard Bernstein. The band transferred operations to the Lexington Opera House and performed The Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” Divertimento (written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra on its 100th anniversary by Bernstein), and Suite from “Mass” that featured the phenomenal University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet as special guest performers.

UK Faculty Brass Quintet

The UK Faculty Brass Quintet with CKCB Conductor Ben Hawkins at the Lexington Opera House

The band rehearsed for these concerts practically every Thursday from early September to the day of the concert. Hours upon hours. Members practiced at home for hours honing transitions, key changes, intervals, and other technical musical elements in the selections placed there by the composers and the arrangers.

Our conductor and assistant conductor put together programs, led rehearsals and made massive notations in the scores to help the band craft a holistic musical experience rather than just repeating a sequence of tones. The musicians in the band worked very hard to perfect this expression, too.

CKCB poster December 2017Band members moved chairs, stands, and percussion equipment. Family members took care of family business while band members rehearsed. Family members also provided financial and emotional support. Crews at the band’s venues (Transylvania University and the Lexington Opera House) configured stages, provided lighting, sound, and assisted with the heaps of paperwork that goes into putting a performance together. During all of this, a special committee was formed and, with the band’s input, rewrote the band’s bylaws and organizational structure to ensure the band’s continued vitality and continuity for the next several decades.

Books were balanced; attendance taken; music was purchased, borrowed, begged for, collated, distributed, and refiled and returned; performances were negotiated, documents signed, meetings led; equipment managed; sponsors were secured; websites and social media were administered; original poster art was graciously provided, minutes taken and communications made.

2018 March 4th posterWe made new band friends, and said goodbye to longtime band friends, as well as band friends who we didn’t get to know as much as we would like before circumstances separated us.

Throughout all these labors, what unites us and makes us a family is this: a love for hearing, making, and sharing music. That’s really it.

Through the generosity of our sponsors, band members, family members, friends, and associates, we are able to offer the audience the gift of music.  It’s easy to overlook the value of this gift, as one cannot take it home in a bucket, or park it in a garage, or hang it over a fireplace. But the power for change–such as emotional, political (just ask Shostakovich, whose very life depended upon pleasing Stalin through his compositions), and cognitive (research is providing many insights into the interaction of performing music on developing and developed brains) afforded by music is undeniable.

Bernstein PosterOn behalf of the band, I thank each of you for your contribution to the band’s mission, whether you are a valued audience member, band member, family member, sponsor, venue affiliate, or have in any way forwarded our band’s mission. Playing Bernstein’s West Side Story this last concert has given us an insight into the possibilities of story-telling through the emotional, social, and perhaps innate sensibilities we possess of making music. Each of you has written a note in the score that tells the story of our band. We have been composing this score for over 40 years, and we do not yet see the double bar line.


But wait…there’s more. Although we’re finished with our “regular season,” we have three more concerts this summer scheduled so far: Friday, June 29, 7 PM, Community Park, Bardstown, KY; Sunday, July 1, 7 PM, Wallis House, Garden Club of Kentucky, 616 Pleasant Street Paris, KY; and Saturday, July 7, 7 PM, University of Kentucky Arboretum, Lexington, KY. Check back here and on our Facebook page for additions or changes.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2018 in News

 

A Tale of Two Households

Any English major might be able to tell you that the title of this blog feature is a reference to the first line from the prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:Riverside Shakespeare

“Two households, both alike in dignity,  In fair Verona, where we lay our scene. From
ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life…”

 

I was a bit enthusiastic to break out my edition of the Riverside Shakespeare to review these lines. So where am I going with this? If you’ve read the previous blogs, you know CKCB is presenting many of Leonard Bernstein’s most loved selections on May 6 at 3 PM at the Lexington Opera House. One of the most well-known of his works is West Side Story. That Broadway play itself was informed by Romeo and Juliet(R&J was itself informed by a 3,000 line long poem–thanks, Riverside–so nothing is new in Hollywood, Broadway, or Verona, for that matter.) But a great play is a great play, and great music is great music.

Les Anderson is the assistant conductor for CKCB and will be conducting Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

Bernstein PosterSays Anderson of the selection, “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story is taken directly from the 1961 movie that won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, becoming the record holder for the most wins for a movie musical. The film has been deemed ‘culturally significant’ by the United States Library of Congress.”

When announcing the Bernstein playlist, Anderson was enthusiastic about conducting the piece.

“I saw the musical for the first time when I was ten years old, and I was awed by the music and story. That is why this performance is a ‘bucket list’ event for me.”

The band has been working very diligently on this selection. Bernstein’s mastery of sound and musical story-telling translates into very specific musical markings–entrances may be anywhere in the measure– and features many musical styles,  instrumental “special effects” and unconventional time signatures. 

Says Anderson of the difficulty of the selection, “This arrangement by Paul Lavender is true to the original music and not ‘watered down’ to make it easier for the musicians. As I told the band–this will be a growth experience for us all. The music has many challenges in the form of complex rhythms, several key signature changes, and tons of accidentals. Our players have lots of solo spots and technically difficult passages to play. The music is exciting, dramatic, and heart-rending. We hope that our performance will bring back memories of the listener’s experiences with West Side Story and its emotional impact.”

As with Anderson’s desire to perform West Side Story, Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra (transcribed for symphonic band) is another selection that has been on CKCB conductor Ben Hawkins’ “to do” list. The Divertimento was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of its centennial. (Shameless plug: readers of this blog and faithful audience members of the band will remember that the CKCB commissioned a piece for its 40th anniversary–A Bluegrass Overture by Philip Sparke.)

Says Hawkins, “The Divertimento is a ‘first-timer’ for me, and a piece I have always wanted to do.”

The band is also performing Bernstein’s  Suite from Mass. Says Hawkins of the Suite, “This new arrangement of the suite struck me immediately as a great opportunity to pair the band with some fantastic players from our community, the University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet.”

The CKCB is ecstatic to welcome quintet members Jason Dovel and Abby Temple on trumpet; David Elliott on horn; Bradley Kerns on tenor trombone; and J.D. Handshoe on bass trombone to the Lexington Opera House to perform Suite from Mass with the band.

Hawkins places much thought into programming the music for the concerts. He considers both the educational and aesthetic experience of the band, and the general enjoyment and spectacle of the selections for the audience.

Says Hawkins of his reasons for selecting  an arrangement based on Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers  for this concert, “Mass premiered at the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in 1971. It was commissioned by Jackie Kennedy. Although based on the Latin Mass, it introduces theatrical elements, as well as original text in English, including a snippet of verse by Paul Simon. Although I have never seen Mass performed, I was in high school in the DC area at the time of the premier, and have strong recollections of the excitement surrounding the opening of the the Kennedy Center.  A  number of revivals of the complete production have taken place during this Bernstein centennial year. I suspect that they won’t be the last. If nothing else, A Simple Song will always be in the vocal repertoire. It ranks right up there with West Side Story‘s Somewhere in its direct emotional message and melodic beauty.”

Hawkins notes for all the selections in this concert celebrating Bernstein’s 100th birthday, “These pieces represent a nice sampling of both his concert music and his music for the theater.”

Even though things didn’t work out for Romeo and Juliet, or Maria and Tony, for that matter, the CKCB guarantees a great afternoon of Bernstein. But please, if you are of the House of Capulet or Montague, or a Shark or a Jet, rumble after the concert.


Interested in joining us for an afternoon of music? The Central Kentucky Concert Band will be performing many selections by Leonard Bernstein on Sunday, May 6 at 3 pm at the Lexington Opera House. Admission to the concert is free and no tickets are required.

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2018 in News

 

May 6th Concert: All Bernstein, All the Time!

Bernstein Poster

Free Admission; no tickets required.  Fabulous poster art by Jason Sturgill.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2018 in News

 

Bernstein: Lexington Opera House, May 6th

Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old this year. His composing, conducting, and character leave a legacy that will be remembered indefinitely.

The Central Kentucky Concert Band, along with special guest artists, the brilliant University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet, will present Bernstein’s Overture to ‘Candide’, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,  Divertimento for Symphonic Band,  and Suite from Mass at the Lexington Opera House on May 6th at 3PM. There is no charge for admission and no tickets are required.

Experience the mastery of Bernstein in one of Lexington’s most architecturally-significant venues.

Keep up with the band on Facebook at: Central Kentucky Concert Band.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2018 in News

 

Let Joy March Fo(u)rth

So many artists in this world are tortured. Among them, for instance, are writers Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe; artists Vincent van Gogh  and Pablo Picasso; and musicians Robert Schumann and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

One day, Tchaikovsky, with grave intent, stood in a river as it swirled around him–the black current swirling and sapping his body heat, ushering him closer to hypothermia and death. The river did not claim him that time. Tchaikovsky, in writing to one of his patrons, talked about the happiness of others:

2018 March 4th poster

“How happy they are that all their feelings are simple and straightforward. Reproach yourself, and do not say that everything in this world is sad. Joy is a simple but powerful force. Rejoice in the rejoicing of others. To live is still possible.”

I imagine this scene in a market square or a busy street—people swirling, some with faces set and leaden tracing a path to a singular destination, while others lean against lamp posts, laughing, or languid at a café sharing a drink, immersed in discourse.

 

Was Tchaikovsky masking his pain? Was he just trying to get a few more Rubles out of his trusty benefactor? He was, however, discussing his feelings behind the Finale in his Symphony No. 4 which is a featured selection in the Central Kentucky Concert Band’s March Fo(u)rth concert this Sunday, March 4th at 3 pm at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium.

Dr. Ben Hawkins, CKCB’s conductor, provided a note of caution in making too strong a connection between an artist’s mental state (whatever state that may happen to be) and the art the artist produces.

“Composers create music,” said Hawkins,” And that music as often as not has no connection with any personal narrative in his or her life. Deeply depressed composers have written joyous music, and happy composers have written profoundly sad or disturbing music.”

The Finale is a joyous and manic celebration of sound that swirls around the listener, more like the ebullient street scenes described by Tchaikovsky than the cold eddies of the river in which he stood offering to forfeit his life.

We, as listeners, are partners in the emotional experience of the music. Said Hawkins, “It’s the complex web of tonal and temporal relationships within an entire piece that generate whatever response a listener might have. The great moments that sometimes transpire during a performance only happen in relation to what has happened prior to then.”

Hawkins and CKCB assistant conductor Les Anderson intend to provide many opportunities during the concert for great moments and to show the audience the manifold forms of the march.

In grand relief with the Finale is the First Suite for Band by Alfred Reed.

Anderson will conduct First Suite on Sunday’s concert. When asked about the reasons he selected the piece, Anderson said, ”…It is modern and had the two movements of two contrasting march styles with the hard-driving March and the circus-like Gallop. I also love the Rag; it is a march-like piece that adds nice contrast to the rest of the pieces on this concert.”

Continuing the dive into the marches, Anderson noted, “Reed, being a 20th century composer, uses a lot of dissonance as compared to the Tchaikovsky selection. He also writes music that is easily identifiable as American. His march is not like most of the marches you think of when you are thinking of Sousa, King, Fillmore, and other American March kings.”

Summing up the goals of the entire program, Hawkins said, “I just want the audience members to be engaged and uplifted by the music.”

The band has spent the New Year working to ensure that the rejoicing Tchaikovsky observed in the street will be present in this next concert.

There is no admission charge to the concert; no tickets are required. There will be a reception in the auditorium lobby after the concert.

Follow the band on Facebook: Central Kentucky Concert Band.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in News

 

CKCB’s Next Performance: Sunday, March 4th

Sousa hasn’t cornered the market on marches. Of the ten or so marches we have planned for you, only one is by Sousa. Don’t get us wrong–Sousa is great. We love Sousa. But we also love the contemplative Trauermusik by Wagner, the grave March to the Scaffold by Berlioz, the jazzy, bouncy The March from “1941” by John Williams, and the dynamic finale to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. And we have more in store, too!

Come hear all the marches on Sunday, March 4th at 3:00 PM at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium in the Mitchell Fine Arts Center.

It’s free. It’s fun. And all the marches are in 4/4 time–except when they’re in cut time. Or 6/8 time. Or in 1.

Sooo, let’s just say they all have time signatures.

Regardless, you’ll be tapping your feet in celebration of the marches.

Free admission; no tickets required.

2018 March 4th poster

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in News

 

Remembering Michael Bush

We are bound by the love of music. Of performing music. Of listening to music. Of thinking about music.

We are bound with each other by the bonds of music. Through this common bond, we develop relationships with each other that, initially, are founded on the common love of music, but are sustained through our humanity.

This summer, we were delighted to welcome Michael Bush to our community band–to our community. Michael’s hometown was Lexington, and he was taught  years ago by Les Anderson, one of our very own. Michael heeded the call of God and became a minister, recently appointed to Pisgah Presbyterian Church near Versailles, Kentucky. Michael learned about CKCB, and joined our tuba section. Quickly, Michael began contributing more than just his considerable musical talent, but in other ways, too, such as helping us update our constitution and bylaws. Michael joined a community band, but he also joined a community of band members.

This fall, Michael was called home to His side.

During Sunday’s concert, the band prayed a musical prayer for Michael and his family, as has become our custom when we lose a member in active standing with our band. Many of us knew Michael but for a moment, but his kindness, convictions of heart, and talent will continue to resonate with us.

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 in News